“Make the ordinary come alive and the extraordinary will take care of itself.” I spotted this saying the other day and it provides the perfect lead-in to today’s blog.
As much as we’re reminded of the extremes in our culture – ranging from extreme intelligence and accomplishment (Einstein, Bill Gates) to extreme wealth and showmanship (Donald Trump), most of us don’t live in those extremes. Most of us live inside the ‘meaty’ part of the bell curve, a rather familiar hill shaped tool we’ve seen thrown up on a screen at some point. It takes groups people, measures things like intelligence and income and delivers the bottom line: a good two-thirds of us are pretty similar to each other. We’re ordinary, everyday kind of people. I’m about to make the case that this is a good and honorable thing, particularly in the nonprofit world.
Mass media does a number on us. It bombards us with images of extraordinary acts of heroism, excellence and remarkable feats performed by seemingly super human beings. A Youtube video is posted, goes viral and we’re introduced to the next overnight sensation, hero or genius. “If only I could have that much of an impact” might seep its way into our thoughts every now and again.
Well – before you sell all your worldly possessions, make a mad dash for your nonprofit’s emergency exit and rush out to save the planet, pause and re-assess yourself inside the bell curve. You’re an everyday, hardworking, committed nonprofit professional. Probably part of a team of like-minded professionals all rallying around the same cause. And I haven’t even touched upon your other roles in life; parent, son, daughter, brother, sister, friend, responsible citizen. As a nonprofit pro, you engage in everyday activities that – if done with integrity and consistency – make a real difference in the lives of people you serve.
From careful donor cultivation to stewardship to acknowledgement (and all the painstaking details in between), you steadfastly do what needs to be done. That everyday diligence and commitment carries over from one day to the next without much fanfare. I see remarkable goodness and dignity in that everyday routine. For who’s to say that your efforts didn’t pull someone hanging by a thread from the ‘dangerous’ end of the bell curve into the middle? And who’s to say that the next ‘genius’ out there isn’t someone whose life you’ve already lifted up and propelled to the next level?
In May, we honored our mothers on Mother’s Day. In June, we did the same with fathers on Father’s Day. Virtually all the tributes I read had everything to do with the countless little things our parents did – day in and day out – that mattered most. That made a difference. That pulled us back into the middle when we were teetering on the edge.
So take heart – living and working inside the bell curve isn’t so ordinary after all. In fact, it can be pretty darn remarkable.